China's Xi urges political solution to Ukraine crisis

BEIJING/BERLIN (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged a political solution to the crisis in Ukraine and for all parties to exercise calm and restraint, during separate telephone calls with U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "The situation in Ukraine is extremely complex, and what is most urgent is for all sides to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid an escalation in tensions," China's foreign ministry on Monday cited Xi as telling Obama. "Political and diplomatic routes must be used to resolve the crisis," Xi added. China has an "open attitude" towards any suggestions or proposals which can ameliorate the situation, and is willing to remain in touch with all parties including the United States, he said. Xi told Merkel that the Ukraine situation is "highly sensitive" and needs to be weighed carefully, according to a separate Chinese statement. Merkel delivered a rebuke to President Vladimir Putin on Sunday, telling him that a planned Moscow-backed referendum on whether Crimea should join Russia was illegal and violated Ukraine's constitution. "The chancellor explained the situation in Ukraine and efforts to come to a political solution of the conflict," German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement. "The Chinese president was also in favor of finding such a solution through dialogue," the statement said, adding that Xi said the solution needed to be on the basis of international law. China has so far shown little public interest in participating in any financial aid for Ukraine, or becoming involved diplomatically, in line with its low-key approach to many international crises. Last week China said that sanctions were not the best way to resolve the crisis, after Crimea's parliament voted to join Russia. But China has also said it would like to continue to develop "friendly cooperation" with Ukraine and that it respects Ukraine's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. (Reporting by Michelle Martin and Michael Nienaber, additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Michael Perry)